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The year ahead in Jazz

With 2018 set to be a jumping year for Jazz across Scotland, our Music Officer Clare Hewitt takes a look at just a few of the highlights.

Jazz at the Blue Lamp - photo by Colin Hunter

This year I'm really excited to hear what's happening with new events. As well as established artist-led nights like Playtime and Bitches Brew, saxophonist Paul Towndrow opens the Jazz at the Merchants House series in Glasgow, and Tommy Smith, Brian Molley Quartet and New Focus Quartet all make appearances at St James Church in Leith. Also new in Glasgow is the Blue Arrow, a venue dedicated to showcasing the best in the jazz scene. It opened as a pop-up but is now set to make its home in 323 Sauchiehall Street.

Album-wise, I'm really looking forward to hearing Sugarwork's debut release. And of course, there are collaborative album projects on the horizon from Square One and Andy Middleton, and from James Brown is Annie with Hamish Stuart in the producer’s seat.

Behind the scenes, the Air Time Meets Cryptic project has some thrilling potential for experimentation and play, and I can't wait to see the results.

We see jazz as a vital and vibrant part of the overall music landscape in Scotland- Clare Hewitt, Music Officer

Creative Scotland sees jazz as a vital and vibrant part of the overall music landscape in Scotland and how Scotland’s music is presented to the world. Our priorities include supporting talent, raising the profile of the scene and its musicians, developing international connections, and supporting opportunities to develop sustainable careers in an increasingly digital world. I'm looking forward to continuing conversations with musicians about what we can do to support the country's exceptional jazz talent to thrive, as well as doing my bit to connect the scene with international opportunities at events like jazzahead! in Bremen.

A few other things to look for this year include…

Glasgow Jazz Festival crowd

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival turns 40

Set up in 1978 by banjo-player and guitarist, Mike Hart, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival has grown to be one of Europe’s largest jazz and blues events, presenting 170 concerts over ten days and attracting an audience of around 70,000.

The organisers told us: “We expect to make new records in 2018 with the biggest range of international jazz and blues acts in Scotland this year, and our usual massive commitment to promoting hundreds of Scottish musicians. Unusually amongst jazz and blues festivals, our stylistic approach is completist – and we get behind creative, exciting music whether it’s rooted in the 1920s or destined for the 2020s.

Hot 8 at Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

“We’re working on Italian, Czech, and Norwegian seasons, on a range of special projects featuring the best of Scottish Jazz and Blues; and on bringing back some of the acts that have made the Festival such a success over the years.

“In the Year of Young People, we’ll be highlighting the new wave of extraordinary talent that has emerged in Scotland in the last couple of years – probably the most exciting group of young musicians ever produced in Scotland.”

Glasgow Jazz Festival

Glasgow Jazz Festival returns in 2018 for its 32nd edition, bringing its annual supply of world class musicians and upcoming superstars to one of the most vibrant cities in the country. From 20 - 24 June 2018, Glasgow will be transformed by a wealth of home-grown and international jazz talent taking over some of the most iconic venues in the city.

Tony Allen at Glasgow Jazz Festival - photo by Sean Purser

The festival will take place in various exciting venues across the city including The Old Fruitmarket, St Luke’s, Drygate and The Hug and Pint which will all come alive for five days of uninterrupted jazz. The first act to be announced is the Saturday night headliner, George Benson, who will return to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 23 June.

Jill Rodger, Director of Glasgow Jazz Festival, said: “We’re looking forward to another great year of jazz and can’t wait to welcome back old friends, and new, to some of the city’s best venues and ignite Glasgow’s jazz scene once more.

“Curating yet another richly diverse and international programme, the Glasgow Jazz Festival will see veteran fans cross paths with jazz newcomers in a city which will come alive with jazz for five unforgettable days and nights. From trad to avant-garde, and everything in between, Glasgow Jazz Festival may be turning 32, but remains as fresh, vital and exciting as ever.“

Glasgow Jazz Festival show

Jazz From Scotland

2018 looks to be Jazz From Scotland's busiest year to date. With the support of National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund, the organisation will expand its offerings substantially to deliver work that supports the Scottish Jazz scene at a number of levels.

This will include Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2018, a brand new scheme for emerging jazz ensembles, year-round CPD sessions for professional musicians, a conference, an expanded presence at jazzahead! in collaboration with Ireland as well as presence at Womex and Europe Jazz Network.

jazzahead

Kim Macari, Chair, said: "I am so excited at what lies ahead for Jazz From Scotland this year. We've worked hard to provide opportunities for people at all levels within the jazz community - young musicians, established professionals, those keen to develop their international profile. We have a strong programme of work, a dedicated and passionate board and I am privileged to be a part of that."

Square One hit the road

In March, award-winning Glasgow-based quartet Square One will join forces with American saxophonist Andy Middleton, as they take their brand of heavy-hitting melodic jazz and energised live performances on the road. They’ll also be heading to the studio to record some new music together.

Square One & Andy Middleton

Guitarist and composer Joe Williamson told us “Andy’s a veteran of the New York Jazz scene, now living and working in Vienna – he’s performed with many jazz greats including Dave Holland, Ralph Towner and Kenny Wheeler. Working with him will be a fantastic experience for us, and Andy will also be passing on his knowledge to students at universities across Scotland whilst he’s here.

“We’re really looking forward to making some music together! We’d like to thank Creative Scotland for their support and for making this project possible. “

Square One received National Lottery funding through our Open Project Fund. March 2018 Tour Dates: The Hug And Pint, Glasgow (Thursday 8), Catstrand, New Galloway (Friday 9), Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock (Saturday 10), Tolbooth, Stirling (Sunday 11), An Tobar, Tobermory, Mull (Tuesday 13) and The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (Wednesday 14).

Jazz at the Blue Lamp in Aberdeen

Jazz at the Blue Lamp has been staging weekly Thursday night concerts at the iconic Aberdeen venue since May 2012. Their 2018 programme kicks off on 18 January with a visit from Cloudmakers Trio “Five”;and the Winter Season has the usual mix of UK and international bands offering a diverse range of styles. Monthly Sunday afternoon concerts also feature the cream of local jazz talent and this year will see the debut of the Jazz at the Blue Lamp Community Big Band.

Jazz at the Blue Lamp - photo by Colin Hunter

JatBL Chair Marisha Addison said: “We are all looking forward to more great music in 2018. There is a real buzz about the project and combining top class concerts, a stage for local musicians and community outreach is a winning formula. Jazz is very much on the up in Aberdeen and the support we get from Creative Scotland and Aberdeen City Council is a vital in our development.”

Images courtesy of Sean Purser, Colin Hunter, Glasgow Jazz Festival, Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and Square One.

This article was published on 17 Jan 2018